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Grim scandal in Germany

21 March ~ Barely two months ago, Michael Kempter was considered as the up-and-coming referee in German football, having progressed from Bundesliga to FIFA level at the age of only 27. Today, it is highly unlikely that he will ever be in charge of a professional match again. Manfred Amarell’s career as refeereing supervisor has fallen to pieces, too, and the most intimate details of his private life are currently the subject of public discussion. And in a matter of weeks, Theo Zwanziger, chairman of Germany’s FA, the DFB, has shattered his public reputation. The three of them are the main actors in what the tabloids refer to as the “DFB sex scandal”.

In early February, internal DFB documents were leaked to the media and made front-page headlines. According to these publications, Kempter and four other referees whose names remained unknown had accused Amarell, a 62-year-old married father, of sexually molesting them. Amarell denied the allegations immediately, stating that he had an “intensive private friendship” with Kempter. “I have never forced him against his will. Our contacts happened in mutual consent,” he said. For the DFB, however, it was beyond doubt that Amarell was the guilty party. Chairman Zwanziger called it “a necessary move” when Amarell retired from office a few days later.

Having lost his job and his dignity, Amarell retaliated. In a TV talk show he called Kempter a liar for denying their “physical relationship”. And he all but destroyed the young referee’s career by presenting an email that apparently Kempter had sent him in April 2007, a few hours before Bayern Munich’s 2-0 defeat at AC Milan in the Champions League. “Hopefully, Bayern will lose,” the mail read. “Then we can raise our glasses.” It seems unlikey that the DFB will ever again appoint a match official again who has expressed his aversion to a specific club. Amarell’s main target, however, was Zwanziger. The FA chairman had “blackmailed” him into retirement, Amarell claimed, and concluded: “Zwanziger is not interested in human beings.”

In fact, the DFB boss’s management of the affair was a disaster. In exchange for Amarell’s retreat from office, Zwanziger, a former judge, revealed to Amarell the names of the four other persons who had also accused him of sexual abuse – against their will. They had relied on the DFB’s discretion but will now probably be sued for libel.

It also appears that the main reason for Zwanziger’s harsh reaction was homophobia. Only last autumn, at German national goalkeeper Robert Enke’s funeral service, Zwanziger had asked the football community to overcome their macho culture and accept personal weaknesses. He referred to Enke’s depression, which had driven him into suicide, but he also mentioned homosexuality. In an interview a few weeks afterwards, Zwanziger said: “The first homosexual to come out in professional football will not have an easy time.” It’s a cruel irony that it is Zwanziger’s own mismanagement of the “DFB sex scandal” proved how right this statement was. Karsten Blaas

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